If you need health insurance through the state-run marketplace, or need to renew, the time is almost here. Open enrollment begins Friday and ends Dec. 15.

The open enrollment period is the only chance to sign up for health insurance coverage for 2020 through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Premiums for the 2020 exchange plans have decreased by an average of more than 3% compared to last year.

Also, customers can now preview available plans on the state’s Healthplanfinder website before open enrollment begins. The idea was to create a shopping experience more like people are used to seeing on online shopping sites, said Michael Marchand, chief marketing officer for the Health Benefit Exchange.

“We are trying to make it more and more seamless every year,” he said.

The exchange was launched in 2013, after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, also known as Obamacare, was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. Since then, the rate of uninsured Washingtonians aged 18-64 dropped from 14% in 2013 to about 6% in 2017. In King County, the rate dropped from about 16% to 8%. Nationwide, it dropped from 15% to 9%.


Last year, 201,416 people in Washington bought health insurance through the state-run marketplace; of those, 39,358 were new enrollees. That represents a drop from the 209,802 enrollees in 2017, but an increase from the 182,232 people who bought plans in 2017.

For anyone who can’t access the Healthplanfinder website or wants help through the process, Public Health — Seattle & King County is opening health insurance enrollment locations across the county where people can come in person to get information and sign up.

Health insurance has been a major talking point among Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, with some calling for Medicare to be available to everyone and others preferring to tweak the ACA and create a public option.

This comes after years of Republicans in Congress, and now the Trump administration, trying to gut or repeal the law. Recent federal actions have included slashing Healthcare.gov’s advertising budget and reducing the number of staffers who help people navigate the enrollment process. These have had little impact in Washington state because, like 11 other states, Washington runs its own marketplace. But states that rely on federal support and the national exchange are at the whims of whoever controls Congress and the White House.

“We are fortunate to have taken the ACA as a whole in this state and implemented it in a way that serves Washington state,” Marchand said.

Next year’s open enrollment period will usher in a new public option for Washington state called Cascade Care, which was passed by the Legislature this year. The details of that are still being worked out by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and the Health Care Authority, but the goal is to create standardized health plans that will reduce deductibles and limit premium rate increases.